Archaeological Field Trip

Account of the Archaeological Field Trip taken by Caribbean Horizons Team, June 2011

Caribbean Horizons staff boarded the ferry for Carriacou. It was the small boat, so the journey was longer than normal and the sea was choppy, which made for an exhilarating journey. Flying fish accompanied us for most of the way and spotting them was entertaining.

Our Carriacou guide Lincoln met us on the dock at Hillsborough and we first checked in at the Historical Museum to deliver a package for Dr Quetta Quay one of the research scientists at the Archaeological dig and to discuss what we should look for at the site. We then drove to the eastern side of Carriacou to Grand Bay to see the excavation site. This site has been excavated by the same group of lecturers and students from the archaeological departments of London University and N. Carolina State University for the past 6 years.

This year, they unearthed graves which showed unusual burial practices. One Salisoid villager had been buried with pots and adornos. Another was placed in a squat position with stones on top of the body – both of these were first time finds for the Archaeologists.

Stopping off at Hospital Hill for a view of the harbour and Hillsborough, we then proceeded to the conference room opposite Ade’s Dream, where the Archaeologists delivered their presentation on the Grand Bay Excavation to a rapt audience which consisted of members of Carriacou’s historical society, the Minister for Carriacou Affairs, Senator George Prime, other Government Officials and the Caribbean Horizons team.

We learnt about the funding for the 33 member archaeological team and the economic benefits it brought to Carriacou, as well as the challenges faced by the Archaeologists and the Government’s support to the research by putting a halt to sand dredging. The lecturers in their specialist fields were introduced to us.

We were told that the artefacts that they were discovering were of the Salesoid people and dated back to AD350 – 1250 or earlier. Although Carriacou has many such sites, (Field Walk survey of 2003 found 6 major settlements + 5 areas worth looking at) and even though field research in 1969 indicated that Sabazan is the largest settlement and that erosion, looting and sand dredging were threatening many of the sites, Grand Bay was chosen as it is being eroded some 2ft per year, so this was the most critical site.

The village that was being excavated yielded lots of information. The most fascinating was the presence of bone material which had been confirmed to come from mammals such as the guinea pig from as far away as the Andes of South America and also remains of the opossum, agouti, peccany and armadillo from the south American continent. Other animals included in the Salesoid diet were the Iguana and Anole lizards, as well as whelks, cetatians and pica, parrot fish, and land crabs! It is amazing to think that Carriacou has been inhabited by people long before the Roman Empire was in existence.

Dr Kay also made mention of the Pearls site on Grenada, which she said is one of the largest sites in the Caribbean and she intimated that in the interest of preserving Grenada’s history it would be beneficial to encourage Archaeologists to come and work in the islands. Public awareness of the rich culture and history of these islands is key if we are to preserve and protect our history and these valuable sites.

The archaeologists throughout the region, of which there is a Caribbean Association of Archaeologists, by sharing their information have been able to understand archaeological sites and to unite all the islands in the Caribbean with a shared history. Dr Kay pointed out the potential to use this as a vehicle to bring visitors to Natural walk pathways to see the site and stated that people would be interested to fly into Grenada to see archaeologists working.

From carbon dating and analysis of the artefacts, it has been confirmed that some of the clay used to make the pottery did not come from Carriacou, but was transported by the indigenous people.

The religious stone, the Zemi (of which the largest Caribbean find was in Carriaou), body art, shell beads and adorno on the rims of vessels are the physical manifestations of Amerindian spirituality. These peoples were talented artisans who worked with clay, stones and shells tools in their every day life and used these same materials to express their belief in the spirituality that linked humans and animals.

Next on the agenda was the presentation of signs for the museum by the Archaeologists, followed by gifts of Edward Kent’s publication “Up before Dawn” from the Historical Society to the Archaeologists.

We then went across to the museum to view the artefacts on display in the work room above the museum and to meet some of the research students working there before seeing the rest of the collection from previous years on display in the Museum.

The return journey was spent reflecting on the days activities and envisioning how we could share this information with visitors who might be interested in this exciting period of our rich history and culture.

Contact Caribbean Horizons if you would like to visit the archaeological site and museum at Carriacou, or to see artefacts and rock art in Grenada, or if you have a research group interested in working in Grenada, we would be pleased to assist.

You might also be interested in our Rock Art Tour, click here to read more about the Rock Art Tour.

A very interesting article : The Story of a Caribbean Tradition